Spencer Blake is a fictional character, the hero, in Serpent’s Smile by Ed Skinner.

Role in Story: Protagonist

Occupation: Traveling Hot Shot Software Engineer and Instructor

Summary: He a nice guy, attractive, intelligent, physically adept, charming with women and fun to be with for the guys. He goes to places and does things the target audience would like to go and do.

Physical Description: 53 years old, 5’11”, 205 lbs, attractive, a little overweight, light brown hair beginning to  grey on the sides. Full, widely separated eyebrows, brown eyes, full nose, full cheeks that make a slight line curving down from mid-nose, wide smile with moderate lips, blocky chin, close ears. Wears a tightly-clipped mustache and goatee. He has strong legs and can walk or ride bicycle several miles but doesn’t run except in extreme circumstances. His grip and arm strength are pretty good by focused exercising to better his pistol shooting. Prefers collared, print shirts. Wears blue jeans most of the time but dresses up very well, his female companions note, in dress shirt, tie and suit.

Personality: Open and friendly, generous and polite. Grants trust by default but, once betrayed, while he may still be cordial, he won’t make himself or his friends vulnerable again.

He is a problem-solver, especially when it comes to estimating things in his head. While not adept at assembling odd parts like McGiver, he is very good at figuring out how to do things he’s never done before. When carrying out the steps he’s just learned, he usually gets positive but rarely perfect results. He would say, “That’s good enough.” He would agree whole-heartedly with the management philosophy that says a pretty good solution now is better than a perfect solution later.

Habits/Mannerisms: Spence has a mild case of OCD, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: He counts things like the number of steps on stairs, number of steps on one kind of surface (e.g., a carpeted area, to make an even# of steps), number of cuts it takes to remove the victim’s head in the opening scene of Serpent’s Smile — little things like that.

Has an Arizona Concealed Weapons permit and, in the United States, he almost always carries (concealed) a Smith & Wesson M&P 40 caliber Shield semi-automatic handgun. He wears it in an IWB (In-Waist Band) holder over the appendix. Because the firearm is concealed, he commonly carries it “at all times” even into stores with a no firearm policy. He figures the “worst” that can happen is he will pay a misdemeanor fine and be banned from the offended establishment which they will probably forget in a few weeks. But he does make some exceptions, for example, in hospitals, schools and other places where the violation would have much more severe penalties and repercussions. He practices with this firearm only on rare occasions preferring, instead, any of his various Bullseye and International handguns. He also has a 22 caliber rifle, Remington 41-P single shot rifle with peep sights, purchased used on which to introduce his grandchildren to firearms “When they’re mature enough to handle them correctly.”

Spence holds an Extra Class amateur radio license from his college days. His call sign, W4SB, indicates his location at the time (US area 4) and his initials, “SB” for Spencer Blake. [Somewhat creepy — this call sign belonged to George S Byars in Jasper Alabama who died on my birthday, October 29 this year (2015). As such, the callsign will become available sometime in the near future since all 1x2s are in very high demand.] At home, Spence is active on 20M HF in digital modes, primarily BSPK-31, but occasionally works phone. Since the advent of cell phones, he rarely uses his 2M and 440 HT.

Background: Divorced with two adult (late 20s) children. Sees his “ex” occasionally but only when spending time with his children.

Bachelors degree in Electrical Engineering with a minor in Software Engineering. Has worked for major electronics companies (Hewlett Packard and Samsung), in the avionics industry (Lockheed-Martin, Northrop Grumman) and in closely-related software companies (SYSGO [PikeOS], Software Components Group [pSOS] and Wind River [VxWorks]).

Skilled with Linux and Mac OS X and other Unixes as a natural development of using Unix in his RTOS development work.

Manages his gun club’s web page.

Internal Conflicts: Over-commits as a consequence of his desire to please others then works long hours and weekends to fulfill his promises. Social (and family) connections suffer accordingly.

Hasn’t had a physical confrontation with an aggressor since high school. His handgun skills are limited to the target range and circumstances.

External Conflicts: He has a “distanced” relationship with his ex-wife, a personal injury attorney, who lives “across town” in Scottsdale. He rarely sees her and, even then, it’s usually in the company of one or both of their adult children.

Notes: Lives alone in Surprise AZ.

Shoots target pistols (Bullseye and International). Especially enjoys International Rapid Fire and scores in the upper-80s to mid-90s. Reloads and tests ammunition for accuracy.

Works as a trouble software engineer and instructor specializing in high-reliability embedded environments including flight avionics, automotive controls and medical technology. Knows several RTOSes (VxWorks, pSOS+, VRTX) as well as Linux.

Free-lances since being laid off during an industry downturn several years ago. Writes several articles a year for industry magazines and presents papers occasionally at conferences, all of which are intended to get his name out and, hopefully, generate new contacts and business. Most of his work is from regular customers who know his prowess as a troubleshooter, and his ability to quickly move newcomers from book learning to “roll up your sleeves” practical engineering.